The physical nature of the games between No. 1 UConn and No. 5 Notre Dame has been something to keep an eye on. It will be again today at Gampel Pavilion when the teams meet for the 12th time since Jan. 16, 2010.
The number of fouls drawn by the Irish has been a point of contention with UConn coach Geno Auriemma. During this recent stretch that has seen the Irish win four of the last five games in the series, they are a combined 81-of-110 from the free throw line. UConn is 50-of-72.
Overall, Notre Dame has attempted 283 free throws in 12 games this season (23.6) and is averaging 19.2 made free throws per game. Led by Natalie Achonwa (57) and All-American Skylar Diggins (51), five players have attempted at least 33.
UConn has attempted 174 through 12 games (14.5), averaging 11.8 made free throws. Breanna Stewart has attempted 42. No other member of the Huskies has attempted more than 26.
“They’re still shooting as many free throws as they have in the past,’’ Auriemma said. “They get to the free throw line a lot, a lot more than most teams. It’s just uncanny. They must have a secret formula that I would like to find out what it is. But it’s uncanny that they always shoot a lot more free throws. And the other amazing thing is they don’t foul. So you’ve got two things that you’ve got to deal with when you play them. They get fouled a lot. And they never foul. And when they do they let you know about it.’’
Opponents have attempted 165 free throws (13.8) against Notre Dame this season, making an average of 9.9. Opponents have also been called for 219 fouls. The Irish have been called for 177.
“They do a great job of kind of creating the contact and getting the fouls called,’’ UConn center Stefanie Dolson said. “They’re just a tough team. They’re going to come in and just kind of throw their bodies everywhere, but they’re great at doing that and getting to the basket and getting those fouls called. So we’re just going to have to keep them in front of us. If we don’t let them drive by us, we don’t have to worry about them getting into the basket. So we’ve just got to play good solid team defense.’’
Dolson has been called for at least three fouls in six of the eight games she has played against the Irish, including two games with four. Kelly Faris has had at least four fouls in four of the last five games between the teams (one disqualification).
“I don’t think you can ever go into a game and worry about what the refs are going to do or what they’re going to do to get the fouls,’’ Dolson said. “We’ve just got to know that we’re going to go in and have confidence in our defense as a team and individually, just being able to play 1-on-1 and then kind of helping each other. Hopefully, we won’t foul them. That’s always our goal is not to be in foul trouble.’’